Cultures of the Northwest Coast fascinate me. I first became interested nearly 20 years ago during a sea kayak trip to observe Orca. I paddled the Johnstone Strait, along the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Over several trips I had the privilege to learn from Kwakwaka’wakw People who inhabit this region.
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Fishing Technology Along the Northwest Coast
Before the arrival of Europeans, the First Nations thrived. Their lives were built on a technology of wood, stone, and bone.
They flourished, in part, because of their ability to harvest food from river and sea. They derived sustenance through fishing the many inlets, lakes, and rivers of the Pacific Northwest.
The most recognizable piece of fishing gear is the fish hook. And I’ve always admired how the First Nations made them. From steam bent halibut hooks to two-piece salmon hooks, traditional fish hooks are functional works of art.
How to Make a Traditional Fish Hook from Natural Materials
The ability to fashion a fish hook from natural materials is still a practical skill. Fishing is a terrific way to get protein in the wilderness. And the ability to improvise a fish hook can come in handy in an emergency.
If you’re interested in learning to fashion fish hooks of your own, I recommend Hilary Stewart’s amazing book, Indian Fishing. But reading about the craft is not the same as sitting down and making dozens of fish hooks. So set aside some time this summer to make a number of them.
For me, doing the lashing is the hardest part of making a fish hook. You may recall that I’m a bit knot challenged. That’s why I like the video below from Creek Stewart.
Creek is a survival instructor, television personality, and author. In his video, he employs a wonderful teaching aid: A giant fish hook! This allows you to see what Creek is doing much better than if he made a “life-size” one.
Be aware that this is only one method for crafting a fish hook. It is not the only way to make one. I encourage you to do some research to learn about the many techniques used by indigenous peoples.
In his video Creek mentions pine pitch glue. There are several good ways to make it. Here is a video that shows one way to make pine pitch glue.
I hope you enjoyed the video. You can use the comments below to share your fish hook making experiences. But please, no fish stories! 🙂
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